R.E.M.’s chaotic, jumping off the wall, mosh-pit hit song, “It’s the End of The World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” elicits a sense of panic and urgency about the end of days. Everything that could possibly go wrong in the world does within the first 30 seconds of the song, but there’s little to be done except roll with it.
A similar panic and anxiety can also strike when thinking about the arduous and daunting task of migrating from one ERP system to another. A project of this scale and criticality involves far more than the conversion of data and table-structures.
It requires organizational evolution.
Business groups will want to consider how ways of working will change among teams, and the results may cause responsibilities to shift across teams, and new teams may even emerge to support more scalable ways of doing things (e.g., evolving from a decentralized org structure to a shared services model, or establishing new functions).
From an employee perspective, change like this can feel like a tectonic shift.
What can leadership and change management teams do to minimize anxiety and maximize comfort and preparedness leading up to, during, and post-ERP modernization?
Winning Tactics for Mitigating Change (a.k.a. “feeling fine”)
It’s not the end of the world if you are able to leverage these approaches.
1) Communicate the ‘why’ and the ‘what’s in it for you.’
It is unavoidable that employees will be directly affected by an ERP modernization. However, it’s easier to digest when the benefits to them are presented up front.
Share the positive anticipated outcomes and reinforce them through a series of communications, highlighting the long-term advantages of the new system and new ways of operating. For example:
- Ease of use: Will the new system be easier to use? Is there a mobile component that will allow workers to remotely conduct tasks that previously tied them to their desks?
- Business Process Redesign: Will this change eliminate redundant business processes? Reduce paperwork? Streamline business operations? Remove manual tasks?
- Collaboration: Will the project encourage inter-department collaboration, expose employees to new lines of business in positive ways, and provide new leadership opportunities?
- On-demand Skills: Does the modernization encourage adaptability and learning new skills? Can managers focus on the opportunities ahead to build on skills they already have?
2) Meet people where they are.
At the point when it is time to announce and lead through change, leaders must recognize that they have already had the opportunity to mentally prepare through change assessment and planning activities: identifying the need for change, going through the RFP process, vendor selection, and establishing timelines.
The rest of the organization must have this same opportunity to prepare.
Leaders should facilitate by aligning key messages and expectations to help bring employees along with them on the journey, as well as giving employees time to mourn what will be going away. It helps to provide a forum and encourage people to discuss concerns with leadership in town halls, team meetings, and 1:1 conversation.
3) Prepare people for what the future will be like.
The future state and the journey toward it will look and feel different to different stakeholder groups. The timeframe for an ERP modernization may extend for several months or years, so there will be many opportunities to set the stage for what the short term and long term look like, both from a project and an end-game perspective.
To properly set expectations about the end state, it’s important to communicate and share progress at each project stage, as well as provide training and demos to best prepare teams for new job functions and new ways of operating.
Getting to the Strategy
Of course, before getting to the point where Lenny Bruce in Accounting is not afraid anymore, you have to do the legwork. That means establishing a comprehensive change management plan.
Start with understanding the company leadership’s goals and “the why” behind it all. Understand the impacts across the board, to both internal and external groups, and recognize potential barriers to change. Visualize what the end-state will look like and think about the types of communications that will be most resonant for various types of groups.
Set the stage for change by developing a comprehensive change management strategy that aligns the objectives and the intended outcomes of the ERP modernization. Identify and plan for effective and timely communications to prepare teams for the future state. In addition, provide opportunities for teams to view demos of the system, and create a robust training plan that is appropriate for users based on their role and future system interactions.
Work in conjunction with the deployment team to time communications and training at key points within the project schedule. Select influential team members to serve as change champions, sharing key messaging and serving as the boots-on-the ground to quickly plan for and react to emerging concerns. And above all, lead change efforts with empathy so that teams feel prepared and ready to embrace the end of the old world and into the new.
And when it’s all done, it’ll probably be time (everyone) had some time alone… ♫♪♪
Change is hard! While plenty of change management methodologies exist, Further Advisory adapts these standards to the needs of your organization by leading with empathy and bringing our years of experience driving high-stakes transformation efforts… from strategy to reality.